KOTA KINABALU: Sabah welcomes 140 passengers from Guangzhou today (March 2), marking the first direct flight from China since the pandemic.
The passengers arrived at Kota Kinabalu International Airport at 5.30am, on an AirAsia flight.
Sabah Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment cum Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai was on hand to greet them.
He was accompanied by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Datuk Sr. Mohd Yusrie Abdullah; Chinese Consul General in Kota Kinabalu Huang Shifang; and STB chief executive officer Noredah Othman.
The low-cost Air Asia is also scheduled to fly passengers from Shenzhen to KKIA tomorrow (March 3).
Sabah anticipated the arrival of Chinese visitors earlier this year, but a holdup in issuing passports to Chinese citizens delayed the travel process.
“We are thrilled to have Chinese visitors back, and we hope our industry players will continue to provide exceptional hospitality services to our guests,” said Joniston, adding that China is a key and important market for Sabah.
Sabah anticipates an influx of Chinese tourists in the coming months with the expected mounting of direct flights from several cities in China.
Prior to the pandemic, China was Sabah’s leading international visitor source, with 598,566 Chinese visitors recorded in 2019.